Why did Obama win? According to today’s lead editorial in The New York Times, it’s because "he saw what is wrong with this country: the utter failure of government to protect its citizens."
Nowhere is that more clear than in the Bush Administration’s shameful record on toxic chemicals. For the last 8 years—as government, academic and public-interest researchers documented the alarming buildup of industrial pollutants in the bodies of Americans, including babies still in the womb—the EPA and the FDA have been asleep at the switch.
These agencies, charged with protecting public health, have instead allowed the chemical industry and its allies to continue to reap obscene profits from products that cause cancer, reproductive harm and nerve damage. They’ve let polluters off the hook from cleaning up their messes. Worst of all, they’ve eroded citizens’ faith in the scientific process by allowing paid industry consultants to sit on panels charged with reviewing chemical safety and twist the conclusions to their employers’ liking.
Obama says his environmental priorities are the development of clean energy and fighting global warming, and I won’t argue with that. But just as urgent is action to stop the contamination of our air, water, food, consumer products, and our bodies themselves with industrial compounds. Of the tens of thousands of chemicals in use today, only a handful have been reviewed for safety, and most new chemicals are rubber-stamped with minimal review. In the U.S. today, chemicals are innocent until proven guilty—a good approach to criminal justice, but not to public health.
The new administration and the new Congress can change that. The Kid-Safe Chemicals Act would require that chemicals be proven safe for infants, children and other vulnerable groups before they’re allowed on the market. Earthjustice is one of a growing number of environmental, health, religious and other groups supporting the bill, because we believe our bodies shouldn’t be treated like toxic dumps.